The Tempest Summary

Introduction

The Tempest

Although some scholars have speculated that Shakespeare wrote portions of The Tempest at an earlier stage in his career, most literary historians assign the entire play a composition date of 1610 or 1611. And while Shakespeare may have had a hand in The Two Noble Kinsman (written a decade or so after The Tempest and assigned to dual authorship), The Tempest is customarily identified as the Bard's last stage piece. These marginal issues aside, The Tempest is the fourth, final, and the finest of Shakespeare's great and/or late romances. Along with Pericles, Cymbeline, and The Winter's Tale, The Tempest belongs to the genre of Elizabethan romance plays. It combines elements of tragedy (Prospero's revenge) with those of romantic comedy (the young lovers Miranda and Ferdinand), and like one of Shakespeare's problem plays, Measure for Measure, it poses deeper questions that are not completely resolved at the end. The romance genre is distinguished by the inclusion (and synthesis) of these tragic, comic, and problematical ingredients and further marked by a happy ending (usually concluding with a masque or dance) in which all, or most, of the characters are brought into harmony.

No reading of The Tempest can do it justice: Shakespeare's tale of Prospero's Island is inherently theatrical, unfolding in a series of spectacles that involve exotic, supra-human, and sometimes invisible characters that the audience can see but other characters cannot. The play was composed by Shakespeare as a multi-sensory theater experience, with sound, and especially music, used to complement the sights of the play, and all of it interwoven by the author with lyrical textual passages that overflow with exotic images, trifling sounds, and a palpable lushness.

The richness of The Tempest as theater is matched by the extraordinary thematic complexity of its text. Recognizing that all of the themes and accompanying figurative strands of the play cannot be discussed here, the play's topical highlights can still be approached by first noting the salience of two themes that arise from the very theatricality of the play: the opposition between reality and illusion and the tandem subject of the theater itself. The play challenges our senses and is self-consciously a performance orchestrated by Shakespeare's effigy in the master illusionist Prospero. There are, in addition, numerous interpenetrating polarities in the play, most notably between nature and civilization or Art. These thematic strands come together at multiple points of intersection. Nevertheless, from one angle on the text, The Tempest asks a single question, one that Shakespeare had posed in many and divers of his other plays: What is a human being? (or, in Elizabethan terms: What is man?)

The Tempest Synopsis

Summary of the Play

Prospero, the rightful Duke of Milan, has been living on a primitive island with his fifteen-year-old daughter, Miranda, for the past 12 years. His dukedom had been usurped by his own brother, Antonio, whom Prospero had entrusted to manage the affairs of government while he was concentrating on his study of the liberal arts. With the support of Alonso, the King of Naples, Antonio conspired against his brother to become the new Duke of Milan. Prospero and his three-year-old daughter were put on “a rotten carcass of a butt” without a sail. Gonzalo, a member of the king’s council, took pity on them, and stocked the leaky vessel with food, fresh water, clothing, and Prospero’s books. Providence has now brought his enemies to the shore of the island, and Prospero must act quickly.

The action begins with a tempestuous storm at sea. Afraid for their lives, Alonso and Gonzalo urge the Boatswain to do all he can to save the ship, but he rudely orders the royal party to stay in their cabins and “trouble us not.” They are finally convinced to go below and pray for mercy.

Ariel, an airy spirit, raised the tempest just as he was instructed by Prospero, his master, informing Prospero that all except the mariners plunged into the sea. Ariel reports that he has left the ship safely docked in the harbor with the mariners aboard. The rest of the passengers, with garments unblemished, have been dispersed around the island. Ariel then lures Ferdinand, Prince of Naples, onto the island with his songs, informing him of his father’s supposed death by drowning. The young prince is led past Prospero’s cave where he meets Miranda, and they fall in love. To keep Ferdinand from winning his prize (Miranda) too quickly and easily, Prospero uses his magic to force Ferdinand to yield to the indignity of stacking logs.

Elsewhere on the island, Ariel, with the help of Prospero’s magic, puts Alonso and Gonzalo to sleep. While they sleep Antonio and Sebastian conspire to kill Alonso and Gonzalo and take over the throne. Just as they draw their swords, Ariel awakens Gonzalo and he, in turn, rouses the king. The conspirators claim that they heard wild animals and drew their swords. The king readily accepts their excuse.

Caliban enters, cursing his master, Prospero, for enslaving him. Trinculo, the king’s jester, appears, hiding under Caliban’s cloak to escape a rainstorm. Stephano approaches them, thinking it is a monster with four legs. He finally recognizes Trinculo and is surprised to see him alive. Stephano, having drifted ashore on a barrel of wine, offers Caliban a drink. Unaccustomed to the effects of the alcohol, Caliban kneels to Stephano, taking him for a god who “bears celestial liquor.” Determined that Stephano should be lord of the island, Caliban leads the pair to Prospero’s cave where they plan to murder him.

Prospero magically sets a banquet for the royal party, but Ariel, disguised as a harpy, claps his wings over the table, and it vanishes. Ariel warns the royal party that the storm was a punishment for their foul deeds, and there is no way out except repentance. In another part of the island, Prospero relieves Ferdinand of his duties, telling him he has endured the difficult trial of love and has won Miranda’s hand in marriage. Ariel arranges a masque in honor of the happy couple, but while the masque is in progress, Prospero suddenly remembers Caliban’s plot to kill him, and the masque vanishes. Ariel has lead the conspirators from the filthy-mantled pool to Prospero’s “glistering apparel” hanging on a lime tree in front of his cave. Though Caliban is annoyed, his companions are gleefully sidetracked, stealing the royal robes and forgetting their purpose at hand which is to murder Prospero. Finally, spirits in the shape of dogs are released, and the thieving trio are driven out.

The king and his party are brought to Prospero where he charms them in his magic circle, praising Gonzalo for his kindness, but censuring Alonso for his cruelty and Antonio for his ambition. Removing his magician’s robe, Prospero gives up his magic powers, presenting himself to Alonso as the “wronged Duke of Milan,” and the repentant king immediately restores his dukedom. In a sudden spirit of forgiveness, he pardons all of them for their crimes against him. He then leads Alonso to his cell where Ferdinand and Miranda are making a pretense of playing chess. Alonso is overjoyed to see his son alive.

Ariel enters with the master and boatswain of the ship. To the king’s amazement the ship is undamaged and docked in the harbor. The three conspirators, driven by Ariel, appear in their stolen royal apparel. Caliban calls himself a “thrice-double ass” to have taken Stephano for a god. Prospero invites the king’s entire party to spend the night in his cell where he will give them an account of his last 12 years on the island. In the morning they will return to Naples where they will prepare for the marriage of the betrothed pair, Ferdinand and Miranda.

Prospero rewards Ariel for his services by giving him his freedom and releasing him to the elements. In the epilogue Prospero tells the audience his magic powers are gone, his dukedom has been restored, and he has forgiven his enemies. He now asks them to praise his performance with their applause and, thereby, release him from the illusory world of the island.

Estimated Reading Time
Most Shakespeare plays, written to be viewed by an audience, usually take approximately three hours to perform on the stage. The Tempest is an unusually short play with a performance time of about two hours. It would be possible to read it almost as fast the first time around to get the plot of the story. The Tempest is impressive theater with its magical manipulations, its masque, including spirit-like goddesses, its spirits in the form of dogs, and, perhaps above all, its songs. For this reason an auditory tape of The Tempest, available at most university or county libraries, is an excellent device that can be used to follow along with the text, making the drama more interesting by bringing the characters alive with the use of sound effects. After the initial reading, it should be read more carefully, taking special note of the difficult words and phrases that are glossed at the bottom of most Shakespeare texts. This reading would probably take about 4-5 hours for the entire play, allowing a little less than an hour for each of the five acts. Since the acts of The Tempest vary from one to three scenes each, the length of reading time for each act will, of course, vary. It should be noted that the length of the scenes also varies from 63 to 504 lines.

The Tempest Summary (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

When Shakespeare came to write The Tempest in 1610, the recent establishment of English colonies in the New World spurred interest among the dramatist’s contemporaries in the differences among peoples in the two hemispheres. That led to philosophical speculations about human nature itself: Are all people the same, no matter where they live? How much does one’s environment affect one’s behavior and, more importantly, one’s outlook on life? These are the questions that underlie Shakespeare’s last drama, a play that transcends the traditional definitions of tragedy or comedy to encompass elements of both.

The action in The Tempest is set on a remote island where Prospero, the rightful duke of Milan, has been living in exile with his daughter, Miranda. They are attended by airy spirits and by the subhuman creature Caliban. As the play opens, Prospero creates a storm that causes a shipwreck. The castaways from the ship include the young nobleman, Ferdinand, whose interest in Miranda becomes apparent from the moment he sees her. For her part, Miranda does not know how to respond to Ferdinand’s attention. She has never seen a man other than her father, although Caliban, certainly a male, displays some lurid interest in her, and she is appropriately repulsed by him. While the young lovers are working out their relationship, Prospero’s brother, Antonio, who had usurped Prospero’s throne, arrives at the island in search of Ferdinand. Prospero takes this opportunity to set things right, convincing his brother to give up his claims to the throne. At the play’s end, everyone is ready to return to Milan, fortified with what they have learned about virtue while on the island.

More than one critic has pointed out the highly metaphoric nature of this drama and the extensive use of lyrical language throughout. The Tempest may be Shakespeare’s most poetic play. That is not surprising, since Prospero is the dramatist’s most definitive portrait of the artist. Like the poet (the word comes from the Greek, meaning “maker”) who creates from nothing an illusion of reality and a commentary on truth, Prospero sustains the world around him on the island largely through his own efforts, and others are dependent on him for their very lives.

Hence, a central theme of this play is the investigation of the nature of reality itself. Throughout, Shakespeare deals with problems of reality and illusion. His central character, Prospero, has the powers of a magician; he is able to cast spells, affect the elements, and influence action by invoking mystical powers. This master of illusion suggests on more than one occasion that what is real is not always what one perceives, and that life itself is merely an illusion, a fiction grounded in reality but transcending it. In fact, the implication is that what is most valuable about human nature cannot always be explained in realistic terms. Equally important is Shakespeare’s contrasting nature with art or artifice. Prospero’s world is one that he has constructed (often, it is suggested, with the help of his magic) out of the natural world that he has found on the island. Through this contrast, Shakespeare is able to explore an issue that was becoming of significant concern to his contemporaries: Are individuals better in their natural state, or in the civilized society that they have created? If one assumes Caliban is the playwright’s example of “natural man,” it is clear on which side of the debate Shakespeare rests. Order, decorum, and artifice are held in high esteem by the admirable characters in this drama—and, by implication, they are the values in which Shakespeare himself believes.

The Tempest Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Alonso, the king of Naples, is returning from the wedding of his daughter to a foreign prince when his ship is overtaken by a terrible storm. In his company are Duke Antonio of Milan and other gentlemen of the court. As the gale rises in fury and it seems certain the vessel will split and sink, the noble travelers are forced to abandon ship and trust to fortune in the open sea.

The tempest is no chance disturbance of wind and wave. It was raised by a wise magician, Prospero, when the ship sails close to an enchanted island on which he and his lovely daughter, Miranda, are the only human inhabitants. Theirs is a sad and curious history. Prospero is the rightful duke of Milan, but being devoted more to the study of philosophy and magic than to affairs of state, he gave much power to his ambitious brother, Antonio, who twelve years earlier seized the dukedom with the aid of the crafty Neapolitan king. Prospero and his small daughter were set adrift in a boat by the conspirators, and they would have perished miserably had not Gonzalo, an honest counselor, secretly stocked the frail craft with food, clothing, and some of the books Prospero valued most.

The exiles drift at last to an island that is the refuge of Sycorax, an evil sorceress. There Prospero found Caliban, her son, a strange, misshapen creature of brute intelligence, able only to hew wood and draw water. In addition, there were many good spirits of air and water who became obedient to Prospero’s will when he freed them from torments to which the sorceress Sycorax had condemned them. Chief among these is Ariel, a lively sprite.

Prospero, using his magic arts to draw the ship bearing King Alonso and Duke Antonio close to his enchanted island, orders Ariel to bring the whole party safely ashore, singly or in scattered groups. Ferdinand, King Alonso’s son, is moved by Ariel’s singing to follow the sprite to Prospero’s rocky cell. Miranda, who does not remember ever seeing a human face other than her father’s bearded one, at first sight falls deeply in love with the handsome young prince, and he with her. Prospero is pleased to see the young people so attracted to each other, but he conceals his pleasure, speaks harshly to them, and, to test Ferdinand’s mettle, commands him to perform menial tasks.

Meanwhile Alonso, Sebastian, Antonio, and Gonzalo wander sadly along the beach, the king in despair because he believes his son drowned. Ariel, invisible in the air, plays solemn music, lulling to sleep all except Sebastian and Antonio. Drawing apart, they plan to kill the king and his counselor and make Sebastian tyrant of Naples. Watchful Ariel awakens the sleepers before the plotters can act.

On another part of the island, Caliban, carrying a load of wood, meets Trinculo, the king’s jester, and Stephano, the royal butler, both drunk. In rude sport they offer a drink to Caliban. Tipsy, the loutish monster declares he will be their slave forever.

Like master, like servant. Just as Sebastian and Antonio plot to murder Alonso, so Caliban, Trinculo, and Stephano scheme to kill Prospero and become rulers of the island. Stephano is to be king, Miranda his consort, and Trinculo and Caliban will be viceroys. Unseen, Ariel listens to their evil designs and reports the plan to Prospero.

Miranda disobeys her father’s injunction on interrupting Ferdinand in his task of rolling logs and the two exchange lovers’ vows, which are overheard by the magician. Satisfied with the prince’s declarations of devotion and constancy, Prospero leaves them to their happy company. He and Ariel go to mock Alonso and his followers by showing them a banquet that vanishes before the hungry castaways can taste the rich dishes. Then Ariel, disguised as a harpy, reproaches them for their conspiracy against Prospero. Convinced that Ferdinand’s death is punishment for his own crime, Alonso is moved to repentance for his cruel deed.

Returning to his cave, Prospero releases Ferdinand from his task. While spirits dressed as Ceres, Iris, Juno, nymphs, and reapers entertain Miranda and the prince with a pastoral masque, Prospero suddenly remembers the schemes being entertained by Caliban and the drunken servants. Told to punish the plotters, after tempting them with a display of kingly garments, Ariel and his fellow spirits, now in the shapes of fierce hunting dogs, drive the plotters howling with pain and rage through bogs and briar patches.

Convinced that the king of Naples and his false brother Antonio repented the evil deed they did him years before, Prospero commands Ariel to bring them into the enchanted circle before the magician’s cell. With strange, beautiful music, Ariel lures the king, Antonio, Sebastian, and Gonzalo to the cell, where they are astonished to see Prospero in the appearance and dress of the wronged duke of Milan. Prospero confirms his identity, orders Antonio to restore his dukedom, and severely warns Sebastian not to plot further against the king. Finally, he takes the repentant Alonso into the cave, where he sees Ferdinand and Miranda playing chess. A joyful reunion follows between father and son, and the king is completely captivated by the beauty and grace of Miranda. During this scene of reconciliation and rejoicing, Ariel appears with the master and boatswain of the wrecked ship, who report the vessel safe and ready to continue the voyage. Ariel drives the three grotesque conspirators into the cell, where Prospero releases them from their spell. Caliban is ordered to prepare food and set it before the guests, and Prospero invites his brother and the king of Naples and his entourage to spend the night in his cave.

Before he leaves the island, Prospero dismisses Ariel from his service, leaving that sprite free to wander as he wishes. Ariel promises calm seas and auspicious winds for the voyage back to Naples and Milan, from where Prospero will journey to take possession of his lost dukedom and to witness the marriage of his daughter and Prince Ferdinand.

The Tempest Act and Scene Summary and Analysis

Act I, Scene 1 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Alonso: king of Naples who has conspired to usurp Prospero’s dukedom

Gonzalo: an old councilor who has shown compassion to Prospero and Miranda

Antonio: Prospero’s brother, the usurping Duke of Milan

Sebastian: Alonso’s brother

Ship–master: master or captain of the ship

Boatswain: the ship’s officer in charge of the crew and the rigging of the sails

Mariners: the ship’s crew who take orders from the Boatswain

Summary
The play begins with flashes of lightning, the cracking of thunder, and the urgent shouts of the Ship–master, ordering the Boatswain to mobilize his crew and prevent the ship from...

(The entire section is 853 words.)

Act I, Scene 2, lines 1-188 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Prospero: the rightful Duke of Milan whose dukedom has been usurped by his brother, Antonio

Miranda: Prospero’s fifteen-year-old daughter

Summary
The scene is set on an island at the mouth of Prospero’s cave where he and Miranda have been living for the past 12 years. From the shore they have been watching the sinking ship and listening to the heartrending cries of the people on board. Aware that her father has raised the tempest with his magic, Miranda begs him to calm the “wild waters” and end the suffering. Prospero assures her that no harm has been done, and that he has acted solely on her behalf.

He expresses his regret that she is ignorant of...

(The entire section is 1365 words.)

Act I, Scene 2, lines 189-320 Summary and Analysis

New Character
Ariel: an airy spirit under Prospero’s servitude who performs acts of magic for him

Summary
Prospero calls forth his spirit, Ariel, who appears, reporting that he has created the tempest just as he was instructed to do. Moreover, he has created quite a spectacle on board ship. He has caused the lightning and thunder claps while the mighty sea roared and the “bold waves trembled.” Prospero praises him for maintaining his composure in spite of the uproar. Ariel continues, telling him that all except the mariners plunged into the foaming sea in fear and desperation. They have all landed, safe and unblemished, on the shore. He has dispersed them in troops around the island, but...

(The entire section is 980 words.)

Act I, Scene 2, lines 321-374 Summary and Analysis

New Character
Caliban: a deformed, subhuman monster; born from the union of the evil witch Sycorax and a devil

Summary
With harsh and abusive language, Prospero rudely calls for Caliban, his slave. Caliban, in turn, curses his master and Miranda for subjecting him to the hard labor of carrying logs. Prospero threatens to punish Caliban for his show of disrespect by having urchins or goblins in the form of hedgehogs trouble him all night long with their painful pinches.

Caliban retaliates further by declaring that the island really belongs to him since he has inherited it from his mother, Sycorax. Before Prospero took it from him, Caliban was his own king, but now he has been...

(The entire section is 1090 words.)

Act I, Scene 2, lines 375-504 Summary and Analysis

New Character
Ferdinand: the son of Alonso, the King of Naples; the prince is later betrothed to Miranda

Summary
Ariel, invisible to all except Prospero, appears as a “nymph o’ th’ sea,” playing and singing as he leads Ferdinand, the king’s son, onto the shore of the island. Addressing his invisible attendant spirits, Ariel instructs them to hush the “wild waves” into silence as they imitate the dance. He welcomes Ferdinand onto the island of domestic habitation with its sounds of dogs and roosters in the distance and the graces of music and harmony to soothe his troubled spirit. The music seems like a supernatural presence to Ferdinand who is unable to locate its source. Drawing...

(The entire section is 1466 words.)

Act II, Scene 1, lines 1-184 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Adrian and Francisco: lords who accompany Alonso’s royal party

Summary
The scene is set on another part of the island, some distance from Prospero’s cell, where Alonso is grieving the supposed loss of his son, Ferdinand. Gonzalo attempts to offer words of comfort by pointing out that losing someone at sea is a common occurrence. It is a miracle that they have survived, considering the odds against them, and he advises Alonso to weigh that comforting thought against his sorrow. In a mood of pensive reflection, Alonso is unable to receive comfort and quietly pleads to be left alone. Insensitive to Alonso’s grief, Sebastian and Antonio begin baiting the king about his...

(The entire section is 1388 words.)

Act II, Scene 1, lines 185-328 Summary and Analysis

Summary
Sebastian and Antonio are bantering with Gonzalo when Ariel arrives, playing his somber music. The soothing sound quickly works its magical effects, lulling all except Alonso, Sebastian, and Antonio to sleep. Longing for sleep to shut out his depressing thoughts, Alonso soon feels unusually tired. Antonio assures him that they will stand guard, keeping him safe while he takes his rest.

Sebastian and Antonio are puzzled about the “strange drowsiness” that has suddenly come over the royal party. After the king is asleep, Antonio wastes no time trying to persuade Sebastian that this is his opportunity to replace his brother as king on the throne. With Ferdinand dead and Claribel, his sister, living...

(The entire section is 1169 words.)

Act II, Scene 2 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Trinculo: the king’s jester; companion to Stephano

Stephano: the king’s drunken butler; Caliban worships him as lord of the island

Summary
Amidst the noise of thunder, Caliban enters, burdened with wood he is carrying for Prospero, who has enslaved him to his service. Cursing Prospero for the way he is being treated, Caliban delivers a long blustering diatribe describing his torment. When Trinculo enters, Caliban mistakes him for another spirit who has been sent by Prospero to torture him further. Trinculo is wandering around, trying to find shelter from the storm that is brewing when he stumbles onto Caliban. Thinking he has run across a fish-like monster, he...

(The entire section is 1263 words.)

Act III, Scene 1 Summary and Analysis

Summary
As the scene opens, Ferdinand is carrying logs under the command of Prospero who has enslaved him with his magic. Though he is forced to stack thousands of logs, “sweet thoughts” of Miranda refresh his labors. Miranda enters, pleading with him to take a rest. Unaware of Prospero’s presence, she reasons that her father will be busy with his books for the next three hours, and it would be safe for Ferdinand to sit down for a while. He argues that the sun might set before he finishes his work. In desperation she begs him to relax while she takes over his log-carrying, but he refuses to subject her to such dishonor.

In an aside Prospero speaks of Miranda’s romantic love for Ferdinand as if it...

(The entire section is 1036 words.)

Act III, Scene 2 Summary and Analysis

Summary
Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo are now quite drunk, and they are concerned about what they will do when they run out of wine. Stephano announces that they will simply “drink water” when the time comes, but not a minute before. Stephano relishes the attentions from Caliban, his servant-monster, and Trinculo ridicules both of them, reasoning that if their group represents three out of the five people on the island, and the intellect of the other two is as low as theirs, the island government must be on the verge of collapse. Ignoring Trinculo’s remark, Stephano continues to focus his thoughts on Caliban, proclaiming that, when he becomes king, he will either appoint the monster as his lieutenant or his...

(The entire section is 1207 words.)

Act III, Scene 3 Summary and Analysis

Summary
The king and his royal party, still searching for Alonso’s son, are completely exhausted. Gonzalo suggests that they sit down to rest since his old aching bones cannot go any farther. Having lost hope that his son is alive, Alonso too has become weary and decides to rest. Antonio and Sebastian quickly catch Alonso’s mood of despair and decide to use it to their advantage. In hushed tones they conspire to murder the king that same night when he and Gonzalo, tired and filled with sorrow, will not be as vigilant as usual.

Prospero appears, invisible, to the tune of “solemn and strange music.” Several of Ariel’s spirits enter with a banquet, and dance around it. They invite the king to partake...

(The entire section is 1257 words.)

Act IV, Scene 1, lines 1-163 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Iris: goddess of the rainbow; Juno’s messenger

Ceres: goddess of agriculture

Juno: goddess of the Pantheon; patroness of marriage; wife of Jupiter

Nymphs and Reapers: spirits of the dance

Summary
The scene begins with Ferdinand culminating his trial of log-bearing. Prospero assures him that his austere punishment has simply been a trial of his love for Miranda, and he has “stood the test.” As a reward, Prospero presents him with a “rich gift,” his daughter Miranda. He tells Ferdinand that he will soon realize she will be everything her father says she is and more. She now belongs to Ferdinand, but Prospero warns him that if he breaks...

(The entire section is 1314 words.)

Act IV, Scene 1, lines 164-266 Summary and Analysis

Summary
Prospero anxiously summons Ariel, informing him that they must prepare for the coming of Caliban. Ariel then discloses the latest information about the whereabouts of Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo. With tabor and pipe Ariel had charmed the three conspirators into following him and left them neck deep in the “filthy-mantled pool” beyond the cell. Prospero praises Ariel, instructing him to remain invisible as he gathers the former duke’s royal wardrobe to use as bait to catch the would-be murderers.

Ariel leaves promptly. Left alone, Prospero reflects on the pains he has taken to civilize Caliban. He decides it has all been in vain, considering the fact that Caliban is, after all, a “born...

(The entire section is 925 words.)

Act V, Scene 1, lines 1-87 Summary and Analysis

Summary
Act V opens with Prospero’s declaration that the final resolution of his project is at hand. Ariel informs him the time is approaching the sixth hour when Prospero had promised their work would end. Ariel apprises him of the condition of the king and his followers, reporting that they are still confined, by Prospero’s magic, to the grove of trees that acts as a windbreak to his cell. Alonso, Sebastian, and Antonio are completely distraught and the rest, particularly Gonzalo, can do nothing but mourn for them. Ariel is sure Prospero would sympathize with them in their afflictions if he could see them now. Prospero concedes that if Ariel, who is only air, has even a hint of feeling for them, surely he, who is...

(The entire section is 1118 words.)

Act V, Scene 1, 88-171 Summary and Analysis

Summary
Prospero has taken off his magician’s robe so that the king and his royal party will be able to recognize him as the former Duke of Milan. After he disrobes, he promises Ariel that he will soon be free. While Ariel helps to attire Prospero in his duke’s clothing, he sings his freedom song. Identifying with the bee that gets its nectar from the flowers of the fields, he looks forward to his freedom when he will live “merrily” in the summer, making his home “under a blossom” hanging on the bough. Prospero tells him he will be missed, but he will, nevertheless, be given his freedom. Ariel is then instructed to remain invisible as he hurries to the king’s ship to bring back the master and the...

(The entire section is 1010 words.)

Act V, Scene 1, 172-255 Summary and Analysis

Summary
As Prospero pulls aside the curtain to the opening of his cave, he discloses Ferdinand and Miranda pretending to play chess but engaging in a lovers’ conversation instead. Alonso thinks they are a vision of the island, and even Sebastian sees it as a “most high miracle” that Ferdinand has at last been found. When Ferdinand sees his father alive, he realizes that the threatening sea is merciful after all. Miranda is impressed with the handsome men of the royal court who come from the “brave new world” that she and Ferdinand will soon inhabit. Prospero simply replies that all this is new to her.

Alonso then inquires about Miranda whom Ferdinand could not have known for more than three hours....

(The entire section is 974 words.)

Act V, Scene 1, Lines 256-330 Summary and Analysis

Summary
With Ariel in pursuit, Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo, arrayed in Prospero’s finery, appear to the men of the royal court. Stephano, too drunk to get his words straight, calls to his partners to shift for themselves. Trinculo thinks the king and his party are “a goodly sight,” but Caliban is afraid Prospero will chastise him, though he is impressed when he sees his master in a duke’s robe.

Sebastian and Antonio immediately see Caliban as a deformed fish-like monster, a marketable product to take back to Italy. Prospero informs Alonso and his royal court that Stephano and Trinculo have robbed him, and that Caliban, the son of an evil witch, has been plotting with them to take the duke’s...

(The entire section is 984 words.)

Michael Foster, Ed. Scott Locklear